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ASEAN Safe Schools Initiative: Enhancing the enabling environment for education continuity in multi-hazard settings in ASEAN

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ASEAN region is home to various types of disasters, large and small scales caused by various drivers. Risk drivers in ASEAN countries may vary, but among many vulnerable groups and sectors, children regularly lose school days, have more detrimental effects and bear the negative impacts on their education over their whole school experience. Damaged school buildings and road access to schools during disasters or emergencies cause disruption of children’s education. The long-term impacts of disasters also increase the risks of psychological stress and physical injuries to girls and boys, making them more likely to drop out of school.

Against this background, the ASEAN Common Framework for Comprehensive School Safety (ACFCSS) was born with overall goals to protect learners and education workers from death, injury and harm in schools; to plan for educational continuity in the face of all expected hazards and threats; to safeguard education investments; and to strengthen risk reduction and resilience through education (ASEAN, 2016, p. 9). To achieve the goals, the ACFCSS has three pillars namely Pillar 1 on Safe Learning Facilities, Pillar 2 on School Disaster management, and Pillar 3 on Risk Reduction and Resilience Education. “Education continuity” is viewed as cross-cutting CSS Pillar 1 and 2. Nevertheless, all DRR interventions and investments within the ACFCSS pillars have significant roles to enable the attainment of education continuity. Those interventions can be implemented before a disaster, during emergency response, as well as in postdisaster stages. The current ACFCSS is ideal and has the potential as an integrator for monitoring the region and its Member States progress towards the Target D of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), particularly since it has defined a target to maintain education continuity with six agreed indicators. However, the level of data readiness is still quite low for nurturing a strong foundation of education continuity baseline. In addition, past research and interventions for education continuity were mostly done under a single-hazard scenario.

This research aims to examine education continuity management efforts in the region during or post-disasters or emergencies. It intends to update and bring new evidence and findings on educational continuity efforts and challenges, with multihazard perspectives and based on more recent disaster cases in ASEAN region. The research looks to illustrate the linkages among education development programming, disaster risk reduction in education sector and emergencies and provides a reference for the governments in enacting their policies in school safety. Furthermore, this research has specific objectives as follows: 1) Map and assess significant education continuity efforts in ASEAN during emergency and/or post-disasters; 2) Identify and examine the challenges and gaps in the implementation of education continuity plans in ASEAN; 3) Explore existing regulatory frameworks (for instance, policies, guidelines, budgetary, regional and national coordinating mechanisms) that support education continuity management in the region; and 4) Recommend ways to enhance the education continuity implementation in the region.

Guided by the objectives, this research put general propositions that “the degree of CSS approach adoption into national and sub-national policy, and its implementation, is affecting the education continuity indicator performance”. The general propositions are tested in four cases of different multi-hazards scenario threatening education continuity: 1) multi-hazards disrupting education in rural settings (Cambodia); 2) a sudden catastrophic disaster triggered by a single/several geophysical sources of hazards resulted in cascading events (Indonesia); 3) a phased disaster triggered by hydro-meteorological hazards, e.g. typhoon resulted in flooding, landslide, prolonged inundation, and increased prevalence of disease (Philippines); and 4) a transboundary scenario triggered by a combination of man-made and natural factors triggering health hazards (affecting Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore). Subsequently, this research has managed to identify the regionally relevant significant efforts done for and challenges of maintaining education continuity in the face of various hazards threatening school community in ASEAN region (Section 4). It also demonstrates how the inter-linkages between sectors and governmental affairs revolving around education may enable or become operational blockers for education continuity. Based on the findings from all case studies, consultation at country level FGDs, as well as feedback in the Learning Exchange Workshop, the research provides four key recommendations for creating an enabling environment that enhances the education continuity at national level with support from regional capabilities.